January 5th, 2012

On School Psychologists and Identifying Advanced Learners

Here’s a thorough Huffington Post article about the way in which advanced learners are currently assessed in the US, including a historical overview of assessment, present-day practices, and implications for school psychologists. Included is a look at definitions of “giftedness” as legally defined by 48 of the 50 US states.

The article, posted January 5th, 2012, is titled Who Is Currently Identified as Gifted in the United States? by Scott Barry Kaufman. Here’s an excerpt:

…six implications for school psychologists who work with gifted students…

  1. The identification of young students who are most likely to make significant contributions to society remains a critically important goal in American education.
  2. Gifted assessment should be a recurring phenomena, not a one-shot event; some students not identified as gifted at an early age later develop the gifts and talents to make major contributions in innumerable fields, and some young students identified at an early age as gifted, for any number of reasons, fall off of a trajectory of academic excellence.
  3. Gifted assessment should be multidimensional and multifaceted; school psychologists can play a more central role in gifted identification by conducting a comprehensive assessment which includes measuring not only general ability, but also specific abilities, motivation, interest, task commitment, and psychosocial variables known to impact academic success. A recent report by the National Science Board, “Preparing the Next Generation of STEM Innovators: Identifying and Developing Our Nation’s Human Capital,” specifically recommends that educators need to identify all types of talents and nurture potential in all students, including high ability students. This is clearly an important, new opportunity for school psychologists to assume a key leadership role.
  4. School psychologists should advocate for any high ability student who demonstrates uncanny ability or potential to make a mark in an academic field, even if their IQ score falls below the school district’s cut-score; there is no single right answer for what IQ threshold or percentage of students should be identified as gifted, and the numbers can change depending upon changing criteria of academic excellence and available resources.
  5. School psychologists should monitor the academic progress of students identified as gifted. Many factors play a role at every stage of the talent development process, and any number of things in a gifted student’s life can either enhance or deter the actualization of their potential. The Council of Exceptional Children — The Association for the Gifted recently released a position statement advocating use of growth models for gifted students. To take advantage of this opportunity, school psychologists will need to become familiar with the talent development and expertise literatures (e.g., Ericsson, 1996; Feldman, 2003; Lubinski, 2010; Subotnik, 2003) so that they can design empirically-supported progress monitoring protocols, and effectively identify opportunities and experiences that promote a high ability student’s path toward excellence and making a mark in society.
  6. School psychologists can play a key role in advocating for high ability students who often are not identified or served by gifted programs in the schools — students of color, students from financially disadvantaged families, students from families where English is not the primary language spoken in the home, and students from rural communities. All too often, marginalized groups of students with uncanny potential to excel are neither identified nor served in gifted programs. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute published a report exploring the impact of the No Child Left Behind legislation on gifted students. The report, High Achieving Students in an Era of No Child Left Behind concluded that while the nation’s lowest performing students have made relatively steady academic gains in reading and math between 2000 – 2007, those students performing at or above the 90th percentile appear to have evidenced minimal gains, and that the excellence gaps have widened among different racial groups and students of high and low socio-economic status.

The complete article is here.

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